- still understand and respect that a particular character wouldn’t be into the relationship at that point in time or ever
- accept it if the characters never get together in canon
- be completely fine with other people not shipping it
- not hate the characters’ canon relationships or romantic/sexual partners
- realize that being in a sexual/romantic relationship with the other character(s), or with anyone at all, might not be healthy for one or both of the characters
- if the characters are already in a sexual/romantic relationship with each other, acknowledge that there are things about that relationship that are fucked up and unhealthy
- admit each character’s faults honestly and not excuse them (understanding =/= excusing)
- differentiate between what you want to see in canon and what you want to write/read about in fic/see in art
- understand that ships serve different needs for different people; not every ship or representation of a ship is about healthy, loving romantic relationships. Some ships are about unhealthy codependency; some are about hatesex. Ships are a way of working out fantasies that we can’t and sometimes shouldn’t fulfill in real life, or about working through real-life fears, hopes, and pains. Writing something is not tantamount to saying “this is 100% awesome”. Sometimes we have to indulge our ids, and that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to not think about issues of representation or ensure that the people reading our fics know what to expect, but it all comes down to, for me, the fact that life is too fucking short and painful to have to feel like shit for what goes on in our heads so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
this is relevant to my interests
the ‘understanding =/= excusing’ thing is something a lot of people have trouble grasping. it seems to go hand in hand with not grokking the concept of an unreliable narrator.
i don’t tend to write especially unhealthy relationships, but i do often use a narrative voice that is not fully ok in every way. for instance, karkat’s headvoice in ‘space bro’ is kinda sexist. dave in ‘lee shore’ excuses eridan’s faults and is defensive about anyone who might criticize him. equius in ‘california dreaming’ misses a lot of social signals and therefore portrays the people around him as more logical and less emotional than they might actually be. none of my viewpoint characters have a truly accurate appraisal of their environment.
i think most readers pick up on that, but every so often someone will ‘call me out’ on something pr96lematic one of my characters did or thought, and… man, i don’t even know how to respond. pointing out that fictional character is fictional would be pretty condescending, but that’s kind of the issue and the whole of the issue.